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Ball Lightning: An Unsolved Problem in Atmospheric Physics

By: Mark Stenhoff

Kluwer Academic Publishers

Hardback | Dec 1999 | #100861 | ISBN: 0306461501
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NHBS Price: £126.00 $156/€147 approx

About this book

A scientific review of ball lightning with a coverage of the development of theories on the subject. This volume provides a critical review of eyewitness observations of ball lightning and of evidence of its interaction with the environment. It draws conclusions about the characteristics of ball lightning and relates these to current theories.


Preface. 1: The Study of Ball Lightning. 1.1. Definitions. 1.2. Explaining Ball Lightning Reports. 1.3. History of the Scientific Study of Ball Lightning. 1.4. Reported Characteristics. 1.5. Developing Models for Ball Lightning. 2: Thunderstorms and Lightning. 2.1. Introduction. 2.2. Thunderstorm Electricity. 2.3. Lightning. 2.4. Unusual Forms of Lightning. 2.5. Atmospherics and Radio Noise. 2.6. Recent Developments. 3: Phenomena that May Be Mistaken for Ball Lightning. 3.1. Physical Phenomena. 3.2. Physical Effects that Cause Distortion. 3.3. Psychological Aspects of Reports. 3.4. Limitations of Reports based on Visual Observation Alone. 3.5. The Importance of Physical Evidence. 4: Assessment of Electrical, Thermal, and Mechanical Risks. 4.1. Electrical Effects. 4.2. Thermal Effects. 4.3. Mechanical Effects. 5: Assessment of Risk of Death or Injury by Ball Lightning. 5.1. Deaths of Humans Attributed to Ball Lightning. 5.2. Deaths of Animals Attributed to Ball Lightning. 5.3. Injuries Attributed to Ball Lightning. 5.4. Summary. 5.5. Discussion. 5.6. Conclusions. 6: Assessment of Risk to Buildings. 6.1. Case Histories. 6.2. Interpretation. 6.3. Postscript: A Field Study. 7: Assessment of Risk to Aircraft. 7.1. Ball Lightning External to Aircraft. 7.2. Ball Lightning See Inside Aircraft. 7.3. Discussion. 8: Assessment of Risk to Trees. 8.1. No Clear Evidence of Contact Between Ball Lightning and a Tree. 8.2. Reports of Contact Between Ball Lightning and a Tree. 8.3. Conventional Linear Lightning and Trees. 8.4. Does Ball Lightning Damage Trees? 9: Photographs and Videotapes. 9.1. General Considerations. 9.2. Causes of Misidentification. 9.3. Still Photographs. 9.4. Films and Videotapes. 9.5. Instrumented Observations. 9.6. Conclusions. 10: The Existence of Ball Lightning. 10.1. The Problem of Random, Transient Phenomena. 10.2. Ockham's Razor and Other Philosophical Questions. 10.3. Skeptical Views. 10.4. Reliability of Reports. 10.5. Scientists and Skepticism. 10.6. Conclusions. 11: Ball Lightning Theories and Experiments. 11.1. Present Status of Ball Lightning Theory. 11.2. Aims of Ball Lightning Theory. 11.3. Classification of Models. 11.4. Plasma Models. 11.5. How is Ball Lightning Formed? 11.6. Energy Content of Ball Lightning. 12: Models Based on an Internal Energy Source. 12.1. Heated Sphere of Air. 12.2. Plasmoid and Vortex Plasma Ring Models. 12.3. Other Plasma Models. 12.4. Other Vortex Structures. 12.5. Internal Energy Models Powered by Electromagnetic Radiation. 12.6. Chemical Processes. 12.7. Dust, Droplets, Dirty Plasmas, Aerosols, and Fractal Structures. 12.8. Nuclear Processes. 12.9. Charge Separation. 12.10. Ions. 13: Models Based on an External Energy Source. 13.1. Direct Current Discharge Models. 13.2. Microwave Resonance Models. 14: Conclusions and Recommendations. Appendix A: Ball lightning questionnaire. Appendix B: Glossary. Appendix C: Bibliography. Index.

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Formerly the scientific Director of the Ball Lightning Division of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO), Mark Stenhoff has been investigating ball lightning for more than two decades. After publishing a ball lightning report in Nature in 1976 that received worldwide publicity, Stenhoff rapidly accumulated over 200 first-hand accounts of personal experiences a collection that has continued to grow ever since.

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